All work and no play makes for a dreary political campaign. That certainly wasn’t the case on Sunday afternoon, September 12th, as a core group of motorcyclists quick-toured the northeast section of Washington’s 1st Congressional District, finishing the 55 mile loop at a fund raising barbeque highlighted with live soul music. Following the James Watkins campaign has its benefits.
Even though the weather threatened to spit and blow a little, the ride was dry, safe, and even a bit balmy. Just like James hopes to do in Congress, he and wife Ashley lead the tour easily (and at the speed limit) without unnecessary drama. The ride started in Lake Forest Park, progressing through the communities of Canyon Park, Maltby, Woodinville, Cottage Lake, Duvall, High Bridge Rd., Lost Lake, Echo Lake, and then back through Bothell to Kenmore, where supporter Paul Hess hosted a first class reception at his home. To the delight of the arriving motorcyclists, the Queen of Ivory Soul, Miss May Palmer, greeted them with standards that could only be bested by the likes of Etta James or Aretha Franklin. Like I said, following James and crew has its benefits… they know how to have fun but also know how to get down to business.
After some dogs and food for thought, James addressed the moderate crowd with his now comfortable talking points and campaign update. While I did hear a few relatively new topics come up such as concerns for stop-loss military retention and what he calls the over-criminalization of America, the most interesting question of the night came from the host, who wanted to know why James wasn’t getting the support he needs back east and why should he support him. I’m paraphrasing but the bottom line was that Republican strategists in D.C. think that regardless of polling data showing otherwise, this left coast Congressional district may be a bit too blue for their taste. James Watkins doesn’t think that assessment is right one.
Instead of primarily relying on a dollars focused campaign, James says he is running a content-oriented and volunteer campaign that will both out-message and outwork the incumbent. Watkins feels that swing voters want good government more than ideology. He expects the independent’s vote to be critical as he continues to press strong messaging for more jobs and less government. Watkins believes DC insiders are not looking closely enough at the energy behind his 500 volunteers that will outwork incumbent Jay Inslee, who relies on heavy contributions to sustain basic tasks. I spoke with Watkins later on and asked him a little more about how he is differentiating with Jay Inslee. “Jay Inslee is a smooth politician,” he said, “He comes down firmly on both sides of the issue.” Watkins sees this as a big difference that is important to swing voters. He wants voters to know exactly where he stands on issues without prevarication.
Sidebar: For motorcyclists wanting to know, Watkins was riding two up on a 2002 BMW K1200RS Sport-Tour, and has Iron Butt cheeks to prove out his fitted seat, customized by Rich’s Custom Seats of Kingston, WA. He rides it now as a daily commuter and you are likely to see it at campaign appearances. Watkins’ first bike was a 50’s era Panhead, which may explain the smile on his face as he checked out my Glide before the event.
Know your candidates and vote. November is coming.
Photos: Top center, Watkins' caravan near Echo Lake, WA; Top Left, Watkins campaign flags on bike; Center right, May Palmer sings in Kenmore, WA; bottom left, James Watkins tries on Harley Road Glide for fit.